Montana Outdoors

August 1, 2011

Wildfire

Filed under: Wildland fires — Tags: — montucky @ 7:59 pm

Wildfire

A thunderstorm swept through our area early Sunday morning and one of the lightning strikes started a small fire on a steep and rugged mountainside.

Wildfire

The fire is only 20-some acres in size but practically inaccessible except by air and is being fought by a couple of helicopters which are scooping up buckets of water from the near-by river and dumping them on the fire perimeter and hot spots to contain it. The planes being used are fairly small and they are using different size and style of buckets, each sized (by volume of water) to the size and power of the helicopter.

Wildfire helicopter

Helicopter and water bucket

Wildfire helicopter

Helicopter water bucket

(After closer inspection of the previous photo I cropped it to better show an osprey who seemed to be supervising the bucket filling activity, possibly to assure that no fish got scooped up into the buckets.)

Osprey & water bucket

The pilots are highly skilled at operating in adverse conditions and close proximity to trees, power lines and bridges, as can be seen in the following photos of the bucket-filling operation.

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket3003

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

Helicopter water bucket

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46 Comments »

  1. Hope you are safe and sound!

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    Comment by Homestead Ramblings — August 1, 2011 @ 8:12 pm

    • We are fine here, thanks! We have kept our property defensible from most wildfires.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — August 1, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

  2. Great photos. Those pilots really do know their stuff. What is the burn policy for lightning strike fires in your area?

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    Comment by anniespickns — August 1, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

    • Yes, I admire the pilots. Wish I could do that! Except of course in the wilderness areas, most fires are suppressed, although it looks like some that are burning some of the beetle-killed trees are being left alone, within reason. We hope this will be a mild fire season.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — August 1, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

  3. Interesting. I bet those pilots wish the buckets they were dumping on it were bigger.
    … I hope the fire is put out quickly.

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    Comment by bearyweather — August 1, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

    • These are small planes and fairly economical, used on small fires. On this one they make a complete cycle every few minutes; I didn’t time them, but it was about 5 minutes. They have much larger ones that they can bring in if necessary.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 1, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

  4. Wildfires are scary, but you got some great photos of the action.

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    Comment by Mike — August 1, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

    • This one was pretty visible and close. Most are not. I thought it would be interesting for anyone who hasn’t seen the helicopters in action.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 1, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

  5. That was very interesting! I too was surprised how small the buckets are. They must do the job, though.

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    Comment by kateri — August 1, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

    • These are pretty small birds, so the buckets are small too. There are over 20 different size buckets available. If I get a chance I’ll get a few shots of them on the ground where I might be able to get some size perspective.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 1, 2011 @ 10:35 pm

  6. I am curious about your distance from the buckets and helicopter. We don’t like fires but you got some great shots..

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    Comment by Roberta — August 1, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

    • I worked my way under a bridge (I know my way around there because of my fishing trips) to get several of the shots, so I was 100 – 200 feet away without being distracting to the pilots. Close enough though that I didn’t use all available zoom.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 1, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

  7. we just returned from vacationing on the neuse river…we watched a fire fighting plane (canadair) fill up at least a dozen times right in front of us. with the windy conditions and choppy water, one small dip of a wing would have been catastrophic. needless to say it was the highlight of our trip. funny, we too questioned the fate of any fish scooped up and deposited on the fire…we looked for signs to a fish fry but never found any =o) unfortunately my photos didn’t turn out nearly as good as yours!

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    Comment by Sandy — August 1, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

    • There were lots of tourists watching and photographing the fire today too. I imagine it will be one of the highlights of their trips. Fire is as much a part of nature as rain or wind: I see signs of it on every trip into the back country. It’s a difficult decision for us, what to do about it: I think we have chosen unwisely for many years.

      Is that the Neuse River in North Carolina? I remember it well from the years I spent at MCAS Cherry Point. I loved that river and the forests of longleaf pine along it. I would like to return there to visit some day.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 1, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

      • yes, the very same. we stay across the river from cherry point in arapahoe, just outside of oriental. we love it there also…this is our third year vacationing there. my 12 year old son wants to be a marine and my husband is an aircraft enthusiast so they both get their fill with maneuvers going on right over our heads.

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        Comment by Sandy — August 1, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

        • I was stationed there from 1963 to 1966 and haven’t been back since; it’s just so far. I think of it often and wonder what all has changed.

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          Comment by Montucky — August 1, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

  8. Wow! What outstanding captures in the thick of it. That must be something to watch. And also, fighting fire with a helicopter takes much skill by the pilot and is dangerous… especially if there is downdraft wind.

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    Comment by Anna — August 2, 2011 @ 7:01 am

    • Yes it is interesting, especially watching those pilots: they are so good flying those things!

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

  9. Hi Montucky, I used to live in Southern Calif. where we had three seasons: Mudslide, earthquake, and yes, fire. Excellent pictures – great story, too! Have an excellent day!

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    Comment by wildlifewatcher — August 2, 2011 @ 8:30 am

    • I know California has some pretty tough seasons! The most uncomfortable one here is fire season: even if your are not threatened by the flames, there is the smoke.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 7:14 pm

  10. Great action shots, and a total departure from your usual fare. Can we look forward to the photos of the post-fire wildflowers next year? 😉

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    Comment by Kim — August 2, 2011 @ 9:39 am

    • Probably not in that area. It is nearly inaccessible. I’m sure there will be fireweed growing there though.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

  11. These are wonderful photos. You got some excellent shots, and captured the drama of the occasion very well. Are the planes and helicopters from the Forest Service?

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    Comment by sandy — August 2, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    • The planes and pilots are on contract. The Forest Service does not own its own planes. There are a couple of Forest Service fire crews working the fire though.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

  12. Hi, Terry:

    With respect to your home, where is the fire located?

    Chad

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    Comment by Chad — August 2, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

    • Hi Chad!

      The fire is about 15 miles away, just above the bridge at Paradise. In fact the photos of the water buckets were taken from under the bridge.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

  13. I hope they were able to put out the fire quickly, before it spread too much.
    Very interesting series of photos.

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    Comment by thedailyclick — August 2, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

    • There was a 4-engine plane dropping retardant on it today but it’s not out yet. The last I heard was that it had grown to about 60 acres. It’s in a very nasty location for firefighting.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

  14. These are some amazing pictures. Operating that helicopter must be hard work.

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    Comment by Ratty — August 2, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

    • Flying those little birds gets very intense and the concentration required can be tiring. The pilots really like it though and the pay is excellent.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  15. We’ve had a few fires here in Vermont between late spring and early summer – buildings or single trees, not forests – resulting from lightning. I find ground lightning exhilarating, but then when you see the consequences hit close to home…pretty frightening. One of the casualties was a tree on the lawn in front of the capital building (Montpelier)

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    Comment by Seth Mullins — August 2, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

    • There were many lightning strikes in this storm and we were lucky to have just the one fire in this area, although sometimes the fires don’t really get going for several days so there could be more. About 80 miles north of here the same storm started 10 fires: 6 are already under control and the others have crews battling them. A hundred miles to the south there is a 1400 acre fire going along the Montana-Idaho border now too, also lightning caused.

      I love seeing the thunderstorms and and hearing the rolling thunder: if they bring fairly heavy rain with them they aren’t too bad. This was a dry one with just a few drops of rain.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

  16. I’ve never seen anything like that in person, I hope they will get the fire out soon before it spreads more. I just think wildfires can be so tragic and, of course, being half-crazy, I always especially feel badly for the animals.

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    Comment by Candace — August 2, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

    • Tonight it looks as though the fire has died down considerably. This one is typical of naturally occurring wildfires that have always been a part of the natural forest process and I seriously wonder if our intervention in a fire like this is really the best thing to do. I am always concerned for the wildlife too, but with small fires like this I think there is minimal impact on them. As I roam through the natural forests in the wilderness and roadless areas there is evidence everywhere of past fire activity and I think it plays a part in the natural existence of healthy forests.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 2, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

  17. Fighting a wildfire with those buckets is much akin to searching for a needle in hay barn. What dedication and courage the helicopter operators have!

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    Comment by Bo Mackison — August 3, 2011 @ 5:59 am

    • Those are some of the best pilots in the air! Thought small, those planes are very effective!

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      Comment by Montucky — August 3, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

  18. I don’t stop by your blog for a few days & look what I miss… a wildfire! WoW! I’m glad no one was hurt & that they got it taken care of quickly!
    I see the Osprey, but what’s he/she got hold of? Looks like a bucket of his own & he wants to help save his Montana forest!!! LoL! =) Good work, Osp! heheheee

    Like

    Comment by Tricia — August 3, 2011 @ 8:00 am

    • The osprey has a nest very near where the buckets were being filled and so they were pretty nervous. Looked like this one was still hunting though.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 3, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

  19. WOW! how interesting. those are some good pilots!

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    Comment by silken — August 3, 2011 @ 9:01 am

    • Yes they are great pilots. They sometimes also ferry personnel into positions where they can work from the ground too and are often used for observation.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 3, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

  20. That is never a sight you want to see near your place, but glad the fire fighters were on the job and that you are safe. Great photos!

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    Comment by farmhouse stories — August 3, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

    • We see that quite often here and a few times it has made us a little nervous. We are in a good location though and have made our property defensible against fire.

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      Comment by Montucky — August 3, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

  21. What a well-documented scene! May everything turn out well in your wonderful corner of the world.

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    Comment by Watching Seasons — August 4, 2011 @ 8:30 pm

    • Although the fire has grown now to 70 acres, the crews are getting a handle on it and it will not become a huge one. Thank you for your concern!

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      Comment by Montucky — August 4, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

  22. Late to see this… hope by now that the fire is completely under control. I do think the forests need to have fire from time to time but it must be scary to have it so close to your home even if you have made your property defensible against fire.

    A wonderful series of images documenting the technique used to put out inaccessible fires. Although one doesn’t really want to see such a fire, your second image showing the smoke raging is absolutely marvelous!

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    Comment by Victoria — August 8, 2011 @ 11:34 am

    • I read today that this fire has been contained, with a line around it now. Still about 80 people mopping it up. I have very mixed feelings about wildland fires. They can be beneficial or destructive, and I even see a certain wild beauty in them. After all, they have been a part of the forest system forever.

      Like

      Comment by Montucky — August 8, 2011 @ 9:37 pm


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